Gray Matters

 

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A revealing documentary about the artist Eileen Gray which proves that she does matter.

  

Gray Matters

 

In a long life - she died at the age of 98 in 1976 – Eileen Gray made an impact in more than one field of art. Born in Ireland but a student of the Slade School in London, she started in lacquer work, broadened out as a designer of furniture and then turned to architecture. Much of her life was spent in Paris where for a time she had a shop. However, her involvement with the architect Jean Badovici led to her designing houses in the 1920s, the modernist villa E-1027 in the south east of France at Cap Martin being the most significant. That building is famed not merely in its own right, but for the murals added to its walls later by Le Corbusier.

To some extent these men, Badovici and Le Corbusier, overshadowed her and Gray’s belief that house and furniture should be as one put her at odds with Le Corbusier whose murals at the villa were an abomination in her eyes. Well known as she had been, Gray would for three decades fade into comparative obscurity. But by the time that this film came to be made exhibitions of her work were being held and her Dragon Chair from the 1920s fetched a record sum when auctioned. With access to the villa and to the items being exhibited, filmmaker Marco Orsini had all the material to hand to show just why Gray, here called the Mother of Modernity, is an artist whose work amply justifies the view that she matters now more than ever.

Gray Matters is thorough, clear and well documented. Quite reasonably, it is more interested in Gray’s work than in her personal life. Curators, writers and academics speak as experts, but what counts most in these contributions is the sense that they really care about this artist whose work was sometimes undervalued because she was ahead of her time and always anticipated. It is as a compliment that I suggest that this film would make a perfect introduction for screening at any exhibition devoted to her. It is admirably informative and apt in tone (Brian Byrne’s discreet music score is perfect for the occasion). As this film opens in London so does another piece about her, The Price of Desire, but that dramatisation is far less effective than this straightforward but highly engaged documentary.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring Dr Jennifer Goff, Joseph Rykwert, Caroline Constant, Zeev Aram, Philippe Garner and the voice of Mary McGuckian.

 

Dir Marco Orsini, Pro Mary McGuckian and Orsini, Ph Steve Brooke Smith, Dejan Karin and Matthew Thompson, Ed Vincent Cattaneo and Ultan Murphy, Music Brian Byrne.

 
Mojo Entertainment LLC-Munro Film Services.
76 mins. Ireland/Monaco/USA/France/Germany/UK. 2014. Rel: 27 May 2016. Cert.
PG.